Managing Dental Anxiety

Many people get nervous at the thought of visiting the dentist so if dental appointments make you break out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re worried about what the dentist will find if you haven’t been to see him or her in awhile or maybe you’re afraid whatever you need done will be painful.. 

Delaying your visit to the dentist will only allow any dental problems to become worse and may end up causing you to spend more time and money at the dentist’s office and possibly more discomfort. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis — at least every 6 months — can actually help the entire process go much smoother on many levels.

Dr. Richard VanGurp and his team at VanGurp Dentistry in Charlotte, NC want to help you conquer your fear of the dentist’s chair. Doing one or more of these before or during your next appointment may help ease your anxiety about dental appointments, helping you keep more appointments and your smile healthy and strong. 

1. Speak up 

Fears can lose their power of us when we speak them aloud and knowing that others are aware of our feelings and understand can be very comforting. If you’re feeling anxious, let you dental provider know your concerns. Dr. VanGurp will be better able to treat you if he is aware of your needs. 

  • Talk to your dentist about your anxiety. When you schedule your appointment, tell the receptionist that dental care makes you nervous and then remind the hygienist about your anxiety when you arrive. It might help to discuss with them any specific negative experiences you may have had in the past so you can work together to avoid a repeat of them. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes just know what is going to happen next can help alleviate your fears so ask your dental team to let you know what they are doing as they do it.
  • Agree on a signal that will let your dentist know if you need to take a break during an exam, such as raising your hand. 
  • Tell your dentist immediately f you feel any pain even with a local anesthetic. Some patients admit they avoid speaking up about pain due to embarrassment about their pain tolerance or not wanting to interrupt a dentist during a procedure.  

2. Distract yourself 

Taking your mind off the exam might seem like a tall order when you’re so anxious, but there are some techniques you can use that can help you distract yourself. 

  • Wear headphones. If the sound of the drill makes you nervous, bring headphones so you can listen to your favorite music or audiobook.  
  • Keep your hands busy by playing with a small handheld object, like a fidget spinner, or squeezing a stress ball. 
  • Use your imagination and visualize yourself relaxing at the beach or wherever your “happy place” may be. 

3. Use mindfulness techniques 

Relaxation is a state of mind. Sometimes it comes easily on it’s own but other times you can work to get there intentionally. Using deep breathing exercises can relax tension in your muscles and relieve anxiety. 

  • Count your breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly for the same number of beats. Repeat this at least five times while you’re waiting for your appointment, or during breaks from treatment while you’re still in the dentist’s chair. 
  • Do a body scan. Focus on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time. Begin with your head and work your way down to your toes. For example, concentrate on releasing tension starting in your forehead, then your cheeks, your neck and down the rest of your body. 

Always keep in mind that Dr. Van Gurp and his team want to help you.  Make sure to be open about your fears so they can help you begin having positive experiences at the dentist’s office.  

If you’re in the Charlotte, NC area and are looking for dental care from a team of compassionate and skilled dental professionals, contact Dr. VanGurp’s office at (704) 209-9606 or schedule an appointment online today.